On the farm now it is cold and dark, but we are turning toward the light. The animals seem to sense the change. Just last week, on the shortest day of the year, I went to the chicken coop and found two eggs. The hens had not been laying for more than a month. Left on their own, they do not lay eggs in the dark season, when hatching them out would mean raising chicks at the leanest and most dangerous time of the year. But as if they were prophets anticipating the light, just before the world began tilting back toward the sun, the hens began laying again. It is just an egg or two a day right now, and they might take another break before they all start up their daily production in ernest, but my chickens have offered their judgement on life, and their verdict is “Yes.”
We humans who follow the Gregorian calendar, named for a pope, and counting the years from the birth of a Jewish baby in occupied Palestine, have linked our New Year to this turning of the planet from dark to light. Last week we had our Christmas eve candlelight services, and our Christmas dinners, and now we are gathering our resolve, or perhaps rejecting the thought of resolutions all together, and preparing ourselves to face 2017.
The year about to end has been a troubling one. Not just for what has actually happened this year, although some of these “happenings” have been big, but also for the direction in which we find ourselves pointed here at the end. 2016, a leap year, gave us an extra day as nationalism, narrowness, and fear seemed to be on the rise in ways many of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. Likewise, the virtues of generosity, curiosity, and compassion seemed to be on the wane.
I suspect that in the days to come we will need prophets who are bold enough to anticipate the light, and to respond bravely based on that conviction. Here on the farm, in these cold, dark days, the hens are laying their eggs. The guardian dog keeps watch over the flock as ewes are carrying lambs that will be born in the spring. The daffodil bulbs are just beginning to stir themselves for their mid-winter blooming. Even in these cold, dark days, life continues to affirm itself. My prayer for us in 2017 is that we each find ways to act with courage and compassion to join in that affirmation.